Bravo, Winterbottom, and More

On Film / The Daily — Aug 30, 2017

“You could argue that [Janicza Bravo’s] Lemon thinks too much about its own face, its style over its substance,” writes Niela Orr for the Baffler, “but it does so in service of its critique of white male narcissism. To this effect, Lemon is a parody of the alienated white guy hipster indie films that have been a feature of American cinema since the mid-90s. . . . That it took a black woman to direct and co-write such a story is telling. Lemon may be sour, but what isn’t right now?”

“Meditation on aging and actorly narcissism can be a delicate art, particularly when involving that now forlornly unfashionable creature, the midlife heterosexual white man, unheroic after all and adrift in his privilege,” writes Jonathan Kiefer, reviewing Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip to Spain. “Helpfully, maybe, the [Steve] Coogan and [Rob] Brydon characters hail from a long cultural line of tensely symbiotic twosomes: not just Quixote and Panza, but Laurel and Hardy, or Vladimir and Estragon, or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Or Scylla and Charybdis? Take your pick.”

“In one sense,” writes Alan Scherstuhl in the LA Weekly, “Steven Spielberg’s 1977 UFO bliss-out, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, is reprehensible. It is, after all, the story of a daydreamer dad (Richard Dreyfuss) who leaves his family for worlds unknown as he continually trades in one slender, luminous life companion for another . . . Here was Spielberg the wunderkind, at the tail end of the decade of personal Hollywood filmmaking, dramatizing the desire to vault from American malaise and right into fantasy. He wished upon a star, and the movies followed. But don’t let the dreck that arrived in Close Encounters’ wake blind you to its wonder and honesty.”

“While [David] Lynch is largely regarded as patron saint of the weird, his nearly ecclesiastical approach to the supposed aberrance of bodies, erotic desires, sexual orientations, abilities and races undermines the supposed weirdness he depicts,” argues James Rushing Daniel at 3:AM. “For these elements to appear exceptional, there must be a presumptive normal against which the weird is measured. For Lynch, such normalcy ultimately looks a lot like conservative, middle-class American life. To his credit, he often suggests that suburban America is not as innocent as it seems, but he nevertheless continually establishes a dichotomy between good, minimally kooky, salt of the earth folks—Alvin (Richard Farnsworth) in The Straight Story, Sheriff Harry Truman in Twin Peaks (1991)—and deviants. The hostility with which Lynch regards nonconformity, then, ultimately suggests a profound resentment of ‘the weird.’”

“To love and admire [Jerry Lewis’s] work, as I do,” writes Jesse Hawken for the TIFF Review, “is to be forced to overlook or rationalize a lot of hot garbage. The old cliché about ‘separating the art from the artist’ is tailor-made for assessing the career of Lewis, who despite his mercurial persona was undeniably gifted, willing to experiment at great financial and personal cost, and who pioneered some key innovations in the film industry that are still with us today, for better or for worse. Several of his films (as actor and director) represent this paradox: the hateful man who only wants to be loved, the lovable man quick to volcanic anger, the goony-faced manchild who could also channel great charisma, the exacting perfectionist who put out a lot of sloppy work.”

Goings On

New York. “Exploitation and adult cinema is not exactly known for being friendly to women, but Bronx-born director Roberta Findlay is one of most prolific filmmakers from the Golden Age of porn and genre filmmaking,” writes Alison Nastasi, introducing her interview for Flavorwire. With the Quad showing A Woman’s Torment (1977) tonight as part of its Erotic City series—and Findlay will be there—Nastasi talks with her “about her career directing porn, being a woman in the film and adult industry, and growing up in grimy 70s New York.”

“Among the first of the LGBT biopics, Stephen Frears’s astute Prick Up Your Ears (1987), which traces the fast, furious life of Joe Orton (1933–67), begins, if obliquely, with the British playwright’s murder at the hands of his longtime boyfriend,” writes Melissa Anderson in the Village Voice. “Though the gruesome details of the killing are starkly depicted in the closing minutes, the film never sensationalizes—and just as radically, never sentimentalizes—its central figure.” The week-long run at the Metrograph starts Friday.

And from Friday through Labor Day, BAM presents 4 by Teri Garr, “three comedies and a neo-musical, films immeasurably enhanced by Garr’s vivacity. The quartet spans 1974 to ’85—peak Garr years, but an era when this fizzy phenomenon should have been a bigger star.”

Also in the Voice, Bilge Ebiri: “In some ways, Heat and Dust [1983] (enjoying a re-release in a newly restored version) marks the precise moment at which Merchant Ivory ‘became’ Merchant Ivory.” Friday through Tuesday at the Quad.

Los Angeles. On Friday at midnight, the New Beverly presents Inglourious Basterds (2009), and Kim Morgan’s posted her 2009 interview with Quentin Tarantino.

Chicago. Tonight, the Chicago Film Society presents a 35 mm print of Busby Berkeley’s Gold Diggers of 1935.

In the Works

Shots Fired actor Stephan James is “in negotiations” to star in Moonlight director Barry Jenkins’s adaptation of James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk, reports Variety’s Justin Kroll. The story “follows Tish, a newly engaged Harlem woman who races against the clock to prove her lover’s innocence while carrying their unborn child.”

Peter Nicks (The Force) will direct a feature based on Dick Lehr’s book The Fence: A Police Cover-Up Along Boston’s Racial Divide, recounting “the true story of Michael Cox, an African American plainclothes officer who is mistakenly beaten during a police chase and then finds himself on the other side of the ‘blue wall of silence’ as the Boston Police Department covers it up.” Anita Busch has more at Deadline.

Obit

“Alan Root, an innovative wildlife filmmaker with a daredevil streak and the scarred body to prove it, died on Saturday in Kenya, where he lived on the edge of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy near Mount Kenya,” reports Neil Genzlinger for the New York Times. Root was eighty.

Listening

On the latest Film Comment Podcast (76’05”), Violet Lucca, Michael Koresky, and Nick Pinkerton present “Movie Gifts” to each other. “As you’ll hear, sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish which film was intended to amuse and which aimed to abuse, but each gift gave way to surprising appreciation and lively conversation.”

With I Do... Until I Don't opening on Friday, writer and director Lake Bell catches up with Rob Corddry on the Talkhouse Podcast (49’30”).

The TIFF Review presents Thom Powers’s 2012 conversation with Sarah Polley (Away from Her, Stories We Tell) (50’37”).

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